Cause Marketing and Your Small Business: It Works When It’s Not Drudgery

January 21, 2015
Sunland Window Cleaning Super Heroes

Sunland’s window washing “Grime Fighters” are making sick kids smile. All while marketing for a cause.

With today’s consumers becoming more aware that companies of all sizes are engaging in marketing tactics that involve charitable contributions, helping kids in need, feeding the hungry, and many other altruistic endeavors; many small business owners are starting to see cause marketing as just another gimmick. But the real truth is, marketing for a cause should never be a gimmick, and if you engage the people correctly, getting involved with a worthy cause is never a bad thing. However, if your only real motivation is your company’s bottom line, building a marketing plan around soup kitchens and sub-Saharan Africa just won’t work—there is an evident ploy here, and no one wants to be part of that.

The reasons that cause marketing works are many, but key among these reasons is that the team within your company that crafted the campaign and who manage really have a heartfelt and vested interest in the cause that’s been chosen. While some business owners may think that using your heart and engaging in emotional affairs is counterintuitive to success in business, it’s time to stop watching “Mad Men” and start looking around Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Companies that are prospering by taking on causes are doing so for a few reasons, and among those reasons you won’t find much about the company’s financials

Create a win-win

Most people know the Tom’s shoes strategy: buy a pair of Tom’s and another pair of Tom’s is shipped off to a child in need of shoes. Pretty simple, and people don’t mind paying $ 48 for a pair of shoes they could easily find for about half the price because there is an emotional attachment—every time they put on those shoes they think of a kid someplace else they will never meet who is wearing the Tom’s they purchased them. That kind of engagement has made Tom’s insanely successful, but you can’t just mimic this model and think you’ll win, especially if you are starting on the ground floor and have a very small budget. To create a win-win as a small or medium-sized business, you’ll have to go local first, and as you grow, so too can the contributions to your cause.

Steer clear of gimmicks and giveaways “for the needy”

The word “needy” is just not descriptive. Have your house in order, be in touch with a person from the organization you’d like to donate to or help with financial contributions, create a plan, have official documentation, and create your cause marketing plan around that organization, what they do, who they do it for, why they do it, and why your company wants to be a part of it. Make sure your consumers know you’re in it for the long haul, and make it as descriptive as possible. For example, “5% of every purchase goes to help fund cancer research at the Scripps, the foremost program for progressive cancer treatment in the US,” will inspire much more consumer confidence in than, “5% of all purchases go toward cancer research.”

Create consciousness even when you’re not marketing

This is maybe the most important part. Use your social media outlets, your website’s blog, and an icon to your cause’s website on your own homepage to raise awareness. Tweet about their successes whether you have been a part of them or not, be there with them during tragedy, and visibly celebrate how hard they work to be there for those who need them.

Your marketing formula where causes are concerned should avoid being robotic, nonchalant, or disjointed. You must be a united front with the group you have partnered with as your cause. If it’s apparent you’re only doing it to sell widgets, consumers will walk right on by—to someone who is actively engaged with their community and/or those in need in a legitimate and passionate way. Whether it’s kids, cancer, animals, AIDS, or anything else, consumers will get on board when they sense that you are real, and that your investment in the cause goes deeper than a routing number.

Image via: Sunland Window Cleaning’s “Grime Fighters”

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